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Hangar One (Mountain View, California)

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Title: Hangar One (Mountain View, California)  
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Hangar One (Mountain View, California)

Hangar One
Hangar One, opening 1933
Hangar One (Mountain View, California) is located in California
Hangar One (Mountain View, California)
Location Santa Clara County, near Mountain View and Sunnyvale, California, USA
Area 8 acres (32,000 m2)
Built 1933
Architect Dr. Karl Arnstein and Wilbur Watson Associates Architects and Engineers
Architectural style Mid-Century Modern
Governing body NASA Ames Research Center
Part of US Naval Air Station Sunnyvale, California, Historic District (#94000045[1])
Designated CP February 24, 1994

Hangar One is one of the world's largest freestanding structures, covering 8 acres (3.2 ha) at the Moffett Field airship hangars site at Moffett Field in Mountain View, in Santa Clara County of the southern San Francisco Bay Area, California.

The massive hangar has long been one of the most recognizable landmarks of California's Silicon Valley. An early example of mid-century modern architecture, it was built in the 1930s as a naval airship hangar for the USS Macon.

Design and construction

Designed by German air ship and structural engineer Dr. Karl Arnstein, Vice President and Director of Engineering for the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation of Akron, Ohio, in collaboration with Wilbur Watson Associates Architects and Engineers of Cleveland, Ohio, Hangar One is constructed on a network of steel girders sheathed with galvanized steel. It rests firmly upon a reinforced pad anchored to concrete pilings. The floor covers 8 acres and can accommodate six (6) (360 feet x 160 feet) American football fields. The airship hangar measures 1,133 feet (345 m) long and 308 feet (94 m) wide. The building has an aerodynamic architecture. Its walls curve inward to form an elongated approximate catenary form 198 feet (60 m) high. The clam-shell doors were designed to reduce turbulence when the Macon moved in and out on windy days. The "orange peel" doors, weighing 200 short tons (180 metric tons) each, are moved by their own 150 horsepower (110 kW) motors operated via an electrical control panel.

The USS Macon in Hangar One on October 15, 1933, following a transcontinental flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey

The hangar's interior is so large that fog sometimes forms near the ceiling.[2] A person who is unaccustomed to the building's extension is susceptible to optical disorientation. Looking across its deck, planes and tractors appear like toys. Looking up, a network of catwalks for access to all parts of the structure can be seen. Two elevators meet near the top, allowing maintenance personnel to get to the top quickly and easily.

Narrow gauge tracks run through the length of the hangar. During the period of lighter-than-air dirigibles and non-rigid aircraft, the rails extended across the apron and into the fields at each end of the hangar. This tramway facilitated the transportation of an airship on the mooring mast to the hangar interior or to the flight position. During the brief period that the Macon was based at Moffett, Hangar One accommodated not only the giant airship but several smaller non-rigid lighter-than-air craft simultaneously.

Similar structures

Hangar One is similar to the Goodyear Airdock in Akron, Ohio which was built by the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation in 1929. At the time this was built, it was the largest building in the world without interior supports, providing an unusually extensive room for the construction of "lighter-than-air" ships (later known as airships, dirigibles, or blimps). The first two airships to be constructed and launched at the Airdock were USS Akron and its sister ship, USS Macon, built in 1931 and 1933, respectively. These two airships were 785 feet (239 m) in length.

Other historic references date back to Europe. An outstanding example are the two Hangar d' Orly for dirigibles at Orly Air Base near Paris. They were designed and built in 1921–1922 by French structural and civil engineer Eugène Freyssinet, the major pioneer of prestressed concrete, and destroyed in World War II.[3]

Another remarkable example of a similar concrete construction are the two airplane hangars for the Italian Air Force in Orvieto, Italy, by Italian architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, designed in 1935 and built in 1938. They were also destroyed during World War II.[4][5][6]

1931 - 1932 Construction

1965 - 2008 Historic Honors


December 8, Hangar One is nominated as a US Navy Historic Site.


Jan 3, Hangar One is designated as a Naval Historical Monument by the Navy Chief of Naval Operations.

Hangar One is listed in the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory.

Patrol Squadron 31 Detachment Alfa begins using Hangar One.


October, Hangar One is designated as Historic American Engineering Record CA-335, State of California Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks by the San Francisco section, American Society of Civil Engineers.


Feb 24, The Shenandoah Plaza National Historic District, is accepted into the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Criterion A, association with coastal defense and naval technology that has made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history
  • Criterion C, distinctive type, period, method of construction and high artistic values found in the 1933 Hangar.

Hangar One is specifically significant for its contribution to expanding coastal defense capabilities of the U.S. Navy and airship technology during the country's peacetime era between 1932 and 1941. Hangar One has been determined singly eligible for an individual National Historic Building listing in the National Register of Historic Places if so desired.

The Department of Interior and National Park Service attribute the same significance to National Historic Sites and the buildings therein, and to National Historic Buildings. The difference in the designation is simply that a site is a collection of items of historic significance vs. a single building.

The entire historic district is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance under Criterion A for the association with coastal defense and naval technology that has made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; and Criterion C reflecting the distinctive type, period, method of construction and high artistic values that are represented in the 1933 station plan and buildings.


Patrol Squadron 31 is disestablished due to closure of naval Air Station Moffett Field.


May 20, Hangar One was listed as one of the 11 most endangered historic places in the U.S by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[7][8]

2003 - 2012 Hazardous substances

Exterior panels removed, September 2012

There has been an ongoing debate over the future of Hangar One. As the 21st century began, maintenance shops, inspection laboratories and offices along its length helped to keep the hangar busy, and plans to convert it to a space and science center were proposed.


Plans to convert it to a space and science center were put on hold with the discovery in 2003 that the structure was leaking toxic chemicals into the sediment in wetlands bordering San Francisco Bay. The chemicals originated in the lead paint and toxic materials, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used to coat the hangar. Proposed options included tearing down the hangar and reusing the land, or cleaning the toxic waste from the site and refurbishing the hangar for future preservation.


An offer to clean the hangar and coat its outsides with solar panels to recoup the costs of cleaning was proposed by a private company, but the plan never saw fruition due to its cost.[9]


August, The US Navy evaluated options for remediating the PCBs, lead and asbestos; the Navy proposed simply stripping the toxic coating from the hangar and leaving the skeleton after spraying it with a preservative.[10] The Navy claimed that to reclad the structure would cost another $15 million and that this is NASA's responsibility. This was regarded as a partial victory by campaigners.

September, NASA indicated that it was still urging the Navy to restore the hangar, but that it is willing to help save the structure; in particular, NASA is in favor of re-covering the structure at the same time as it is stripped.[11]


December, The US Navy is remediating the PCBs, lead and asbestos, and NASA is evaluating options for reuse of the hangar. Some historic and nonprofit groups would like the hangar preserved as a historic landmark, as the hangar is a major Bay Area landmark and historic site.


April, After months of planning and preparation, work to remove the exterior panels began, requiring "the biggest scaffolding job in the history of the West Coast." The work was completed in mid-2012.[12][13]

2012 - 2016 Restoration


October, Google top executives Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt proposed paying the full $33 million cost of revamping Hangar One, in exchange for being able to use up to two-thirds of the floor space to shelter eight of their private jets.[14][15]


September, it was reported that proposals to restore the hangar had been rejected by NASA administration, and that the government would instead direct its efforts toward leasing (or selling) the Moffett facility.[16]


NASA & GSA select Planetary Ventures (a subsidiary of Google) to manage Hangar One and Moffett airfield,[17][18][19] and Google pays $1.16 billion over 60 years for the lease.[20][21]

Popular Culture


In popular culture, Hangar One can be seen in various episodes of the Discovery Channel TV show MythBusters. For instance, the show used one of the smaller hangars to disprove the myth that it is not possible to fold a sheet of paper in half more than seven times. The sheet of paper covered nearly the full width of the airship hangar. Other episodes of Mythbusters have utilized the hangar to test myths such as "Inflating a football with helium allows longer kick distances" and "Airworthy aircraft can be constructed of concrete.".

See also


Hangar One with opened orange peel doors, 1963
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  20. ^ Northon, Karen M. "NASA Signs Lease with Planetary Ventures LLC for Use of Moffett Airfield and Restoration of Hangar One" NASA, 10 November 2014.
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External links

  • NASA: Moffett Field History
  • Moffett Field Museum
  • 2008 List of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places Announced
  • NASA Ames Historic Preservation Office
  • National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places in Santa Clara County
  • Save Hangar One

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Park Service.

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